Chinese-Luxembourg Duo Win Prize, Get Dutch Tour, Endorsement from Marimba One

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An unusual combination--a woman from Asia and a man from Europe, both marimba masters--won a prestigious prize that netted them a nine-concert tour of the premier halls of the Netherlands.

Rachel Zhang, Marimba One artist

What passion and dedication it takes to build a great marimba!
-- Rachel Zhang and Laurent Warnier

Playing as the Joint Venture Percussion Duo, Rachel Xi Zhang of China and Laurent Warnier of Luxembourg have brought together a blend of musical and cultural influences, a common ground through percussion despite their contrasting backgrounds.

They were awarded the Bernard Haitink Prize, plus a scholarship, during the Vriedenkrans Competition. The tour will take them on the stages of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Eindhoven's Muziekgebouw, among others.

Recent performances of the duo included such venues as the Beijing National Center for Performing Arts and the Shenzhen Symphony Hall, in addition to recitals at numerous conservatories.

Visit to Marimba One

During a recent tour of the United States, they performed in Arcata, California, home of the Marimba One instruments they use. Zhang and Warnier explained, "We played our own arrangements of music composed by Mihail Glinka, Maurice Ravel and Frank Zappa. We also gave a U.S. premiere of a composition by Igor Iofe written especially for our duo."

They also focused a talk on the musical life of a duo, how they work together and the necessity to enlarge the marimbist's repertoire in every direction, from making transcriptions to commissioning new pieces.

"It was an amazing learning experience for us and an honor to meet so many interesting new people [during the events held in Marimba One's home town], from the concerts to the masterclasses and lessons, but also just by hanging out and hearing the personal stories.

"Our favorite part of the tour at Marimba One was to observe the amount of passion and dedication that you can see in each part of the factory to just make a great marimba. The warehouse with the stored rosewood especially made us feel the huge amount of planning and time that is being invested to create a Marimba One."

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Nicole Riggs
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